7 Tips for Bilingualism in the ECE ClassroomPosted May 15, 2013 | By csponline
7 Tips for Bilingualism in the ECE Classroom
Several studies show that children who are raised in a bilingual environment reap linguistic, cognitive and reading benefits. Nurturing bilingualism in young students is also a valuable way to connect them with family heritage, foster an appreciation for other cultures and even prepare them for future success as more marketable workers.
Regardless of the reason a child has come to bilingual learning, the process can be riddled with confusion and second-guessing from parents and teachers alike. Read on for seven tips on how to best integrate bilingualism into the early childhood education experience, both in the classroom and at home.
1. Start early.
The earlier children start learning language, the better. Some parents and teachers may have concerns that teaching children multiple languages too early could cause language confusion problems, but the opposite has proven to be the case. Many parents choose to begin teaching their children the minority language at home first because they know that they will receive instruction in English in school. Familiarity with the reading process transfers easily into working with another language, even if the two languages do not use the same character system.
2. Be prepared.
Teachers should familiarize themselves with the languages and cultures students may bring to the classroom. When putting together lesson plans, teachers should consider their students’ linguistic and cultural backgrounds. If teachers can incorporate these things into their lessons, all students in the class can gain an appreciation for multiculturalism and begin thinking of themselves as global citizens.
3. Immerse students.
The most effective way to learn a language is to be completely immersed in it. Many bilingual preschools have language days. On those particular days, the entire class and staff (including teachers, administrators and janitors) use only one language. Bilingual families can employ this tactic as well. Some many even choose to take a one-parent, one-language approach, in which the child speaks to one parent in the minority language only and to the other parent in English only.
4. Find a peer group.
Children need to feel that their experience is similar to that of others. When using a second language only with a parent or only in a structured class setting, students may start to feel that speaking it is a chore. When children engage with peers who also speak a minority language, they are more likely to find joy in language and continue the pursuit. Also, children can learn a great deal from each other in very organic and meaningful ways.
5. Exercise equality.
Teachers should try not to single out students who have a unique cultural and linguistic heritage. Not all students feel different from their peers because of their family’s language and culture. These children deserve to be part of the group and not be forced to stand out. If students want to share with their peers, teachers and parents should encourage them to do so by talking about languages and cultures in generic, broad terms. Then, if students feel inclined, they can volunteer to share.
6. Incorporate students’ interests.
High-interest learning is an excellent teaching approach for young children. Incorporate shows, characters or activities that interest students. By adding this high-interest subject matter, students are more likely to stay interested in the language, and the association between the language and the subject matter improves language retention. One easy way to accomplish this is to allow students to watch their favorite shows in another language, and then discuss the episode in their native language to assess their understanding.
7. Celebrate creativity.
Play is one of the best tools early childhood educators have at their disposal. Through play, children find more to talk about and, in doing so, build vocabulary. Let children engage in dress-up and pretend games in the minority language. Visual art activities, such as finger painting, sidewalk chalk or clay, can be just as useful in engaging children through art and language.
The task of the early childhood educator is a challenging and rewarding one. Scientists frequently conduct studies on children’s minds because their ability to learn so much so quickly is fascinating. The best way to help children achieve is to reach them early with quality education. If you have a passion for educating young children or want to refresh your skills, Concordia University, St. Paul offers convenient and affordable early childhood education degrees online. Start your career with a Bachelor of Arts in Child Development, finish your Bachelor of Arts in Child Development or take your education further with a Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education.
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